Gazing into the Eyes of a Shepherd
On Sunday, we will light the third candle of Advent. This candle is unlike the
others. It is pink in color, representing joy instead of repentance, which is symbolized in
the other three candles — typically purple, or, as is the case at Oak Chapel, blue. The
pink candle is also referred to as the “Shepherd’s Candle.” How appropriate because we
often refer to Christ as the “Good Shepherd.”
The concept of the word “shepherd” is intriguing because it can be used as a noun
or a verb. As a noun, we think of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. In
Scripture, we know that a shepherd will often leave his flock to go and find the one that
has gone missing. As a verb, we refer to the concept of ‘shepherding,” which describes
the shepherd’s effort to keep the flock together and moving in the same direction.
Whichever way we use the word “shepherd,” we know that it serves as the perfect
metaphor for the way in which Jesus watches over us. Yes, he would leave the flock to go and rescue us when we lose our way, even if we are the one responsible for straying.
Most of us have done that at least once or twice in our lives, but he is always on the
lookout, always close by to gather us in his arms and take us home.
Likewise, Jesus seems to always be shepherding us — poking and prodding us to
move one way or the other, to answer his call, to put us in a safe place, or simply to guide
us on our path in this world.
Like most children, one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season was when my
Dad would climb into our soot-filled attic and bring down the decorations. We always
bought a real tree and adorned it with those big, bright bulbs that would get so hot they
would melt the tinsel on the tree. We also had a little train set that always seemed to jump the tracks. Finally, he would bring down the manger set, which we still have to this day.
It was my job to set up the Nativity. I would carefully arrange the empty crib in
between Mary and Joseph. Then I would set up the three wise men on the left and the
animals on the right. Finally, I would put the shepherd into place. I never realized how
important a role he had in the nativity scene, but it made perfect sense for him to be there to adore the greatest shepherd of them all.
Since those days of my youth, setting up for Christmas has become more of a
chore than a joy. In fact, Sheri does most of the work. I still try to put up outside lights, but that requires me to get up on the roof, which is probably not a good idea at my age, so I may refrain from doing that this year.
I will, however, take time to look at the manger scene. We now have two of them.
At some point, I will gaze into the eyes of the ceramic shepherd, give them a wink and a
nod, and thank him for not only representing the Christ Child, but also for reminding us
that we can all be shepherds, especially during this sacred time of year.
Until we meet again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John